Perhaps you’ve watched from afar when family or friends began teaching their own children at home and thought, “I could NEVER do that!” Yet thanks to school closures resulting from the coronavirus, you have found yourself doing exactly that!
I’ve been homeschooling my own children and working with other homeschooling families for over 30 years. Let me offer some tips to help you through these next few weeks:
Create family memories
Tackle a home decorating project, learn a craft, serve your neighbors (especially if any are elderly or home-bound), get a new pet – the list is endless. Be sure to document your time together with photos so that years from now, you can all reminisce about your time stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. My family and I still talk about our flooded camping trip in Yosemite – sometimes the worst moments turn into the best memories!
Homeschooling is a more efficient use of time than classroom learning. Even if your school sent home an enormous packet of work to be completed, your children will likely find themselves with unexpected time on their hands as they don’t need to listen to umpteen questions or disruptions from their classmates.
Get outside for 15-30 minutes (or more) daily
The benefits of outdoor play for children include better physical health, improved motor skills, better distance vision, increased attention span, and reduced stress. Additionally a moderate increase in sun exposure helps children produce adequate levels of vitamin D which improves mood, muscle function, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Though we in Southern California live in a land of abundant sunshine, our children spend much of their time indoors when they attend school.
To further avoid disease transmission, you might want to avoid parks and playgrounds right now. But if you have access to a yard, make full use of it during this season at home. Add in neighborhood walks, moderate hikes, and trips to the beach where you can enjoy an uncrowded time in nature.
Work together as a family
More people together at home for longer periods of time means more food to prepare and more messes to clean up. These jobs should not fall solely to mom! Make a chore chart and train your children to handle age-appropriate tasks. Then work together at a specified time each day to restore some semblance of order to your living space. If you (or they) are overwhelmed by too much stuff, this might be a wonderful time to de-clutter and give away unneeded items.
Teach your children to cook a simple meal or two – this will really help your family the next time you get sick or are too busy to handle meal preparations.
Review basic academic skills
In addition to whatever work your school is providing, this is the perfect opportunity to review concepts such as math facts and spelling rules. These can be mastered through a variety of fun digital apps and board games, in addition to the time-tested ways of flash cards and worksheets. The more solidly your child understands these basic skills, the better prepared he or she is for more advanced academic work.
Also, read, read, read! This is a wonderful time to begin a family read-aloud book. Through reading a chapter or two per day together, you all can experience some treasures of classic literature. Also establish a time of individual reading – perhaps 20-30 minutes daily with books of their own choosing. As your children spend more time reading, their fluency and comprehension will improve naturally and they will enjoy it more. If you have a struggling reader, a short time daily in which he or she reads aloud to you can help too.
Follow an interest or passion
This approach to learning is also known as delight-directed learning. Ask each child to identify one particular topic or subject to study during this time at home. Then help him or her find articles, blogs, documentaries, YouTube videos, or library books about the topic. Let the student follow any rabbit trails that capture their curiosity along the way. Your goal is not to have mastered specific content (though the amount of information retained when interested in a subject might astound you!), but to help your child enjoy the process of learning.
When the time approaches for them to return to school, allow them to creatively document or present what they have learned. This could be a written summary, a presentation in video format or Power Point, a sketch, a story, a poster, a speech, a skit, or whatever format most appeals to your student as a memory or souvenir of this time at home.
Whether your children return to school in a few weeks or you start a longer-term adventure into homeschooling, I hope that this season will provide unanticipated blessings for your family! If I can assist you during this time of transition to temporary homeschooling, please let me know.